I have recently applied for the AI startup school organized by Entrepreneur First.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexel

With the rapid pace of AI transformations and new challenges brought by Generative AI, I feel like I am always behind and never have enough time to catch up. I am motivated to learn more, accelerate, and be part of the innovation movement. I aim to contribute more to “INtrapreneurship” in my company’s Computer Vision team and be able to drive change.

The “Entrepreneurs First” program in Paris is an initiative aimed at fostering entrepreneurial talent and facilitating the creation of new startups, particularly in the deep tech sector. EF invests in talented individuals based on their skills or expertise, regardless of whether they already have a business idea or team in place. Entrepreneur First’s Paris program conveys a belief that some of the best potential startup founders never embark on entrepreneurial journeys due to barriers to entry.

They organized the AI Startup School, a series of evening seminars, and a great networking opportunity.

An exclusive lecture series in Paris delivered by renowned speakers in the AI startup scene (…) EF’s AI Startup School in Paris will bring together talented individuals excited by the opportunities within AI, to share knowledge and build a wider network within the local AI ecosystem

SCOOP: I was not accepted.

If you want to read directly about AI startup school seminars skip to Embracing the Unknown 2/2: Takeaways from AI startup school — seminars

Of course, I cannot know the specific reasons, however, there was one question I reckon I did not nail:

What was the most risky thing you have ever done ?

During the interview, my mind raced with seemingly trivial or unimpressive ideas such as: “I tested my code in prod” (lol, never do that), “I drive a motorcycle” or “I changed jobs on my own initiative”.

Some time later, I started to think about my relationship with risk.

Growing up in Poland, I was ingrained with a cautious ethos from my parents: a conviction that regular life can surprise us with enough troubles that deliberately taking risks is pure stupidity and equals a miserable outcome.

We have this saying: “do not praise the day before the sunset”, “do not say ‘hop’ before you jump”, “do not share the skin of the bear before you’ve killed the beast”, “enjoy today, tomorrow will be worse”. I was told I should not be too (or at all) optimistic and always think about the worst-case scenario.

For most of my life, this cautious approach underpinned every decision I made, be it choosing a high school or committing to a relationship. Always a Plan A, followed by Plan B and C, etc. Living life being scared and putting my energy into foreseeing what can go wrong and which backup plan I should put in place.

Some (including myself) might argue I’ve taken risks: moving solo from Poland to a tiny, unknown, cute town in French Brittany for bio-mathematics studies. But to be honest, I had worked out a solid Plan B; I was subscribed to a university in Poland, starting a month later than the one in France. It would only cost me a plane ticket to go back and live my life like nothing ever happened (I stayed in France, after all). Would I have chosen the adventure if there were no way back?

I suppose all these plans and being “realistic” (or one could say rather “pessimistic”) about my life and career steps helped me to survive and saved me from trouble many times. But, also, maybe, stopped me from getting somewhere further or somewhere else.

It’s not that I lack ambition or curiosity. I have always had tons of it. Being the best in the class, being the most performant, getting recognition for what I do, giving my time and passion to projects, trying different sports: kite surfing, skiing, biking, boxing. From some perspective now, I just realize I have never taken a real risk, going into a total unknown with faith.

To me, entrepreneurship embodies this very essence of risk-taking: a belief so strong it borders on the edge of madness.

Once, with two colleagues, we had a start-up idea. We pitched it to founders, attended startup events, and when we faced the question of commitment, all of us chose a more secure career choice, granting a stable income.

I convinced myself that those who embark on this entrepreneurial journey are invariably privileged. They are usually white men from good families, supporting them with money or a professional network so that they do not have to stress about what to eat, and therefore they can live most of their entrepreneurial adventure. Even if this is true for some, I think now, I was telling myself a story I wanted to hear.

Let’s think of the controversial protagonist of “WeCrashed” Netflix series, Adam Neumann, who tells a tale of ambition, innovation, and ultimate downfall. He managed, with an idea and determination, to reach a valuation of $47 billion at its peak. Also, think about Gordon Ramsay, the multi-Michelin starred chef and star of the small screen. In his interview at Masterclass.com, he shared that in order to build his business he left his comfortable position and went to France to learn everything “from scratch”, even though he worked for a starred restaurant in the UK. Later, he also sold his house in order to put all the money in his new restaurant, working like a madman.

All those people who apply to EF to learn, grow, and thrive, even if they don’t always have a comfortable backup plan, have earned my respect and admiration. They are getting out of their comfort zone because they believe there is something worth fighting for, whatever the motivation is — be it praise, money, or saving the world and curing cancer.

Another important keyword: comfort. Nowadays, in Western Europe, in France, I think, we are really used to our comfort. Comfort is a heated house, a warm meal but also a stable job, health insurance, a partner to talk to and government aids. I realize that I like my comfort too much, that I am privileged enough, but not ready to face the discomfort of the unknown.

So the one remarkable question emerges: is there a cause, a dream, something I value so profoundly that I’m willing to step beyond my comfort zone and embrace the unknown? Accept that there is no Plan B, that there is Plan A or nothing? Will I allow myself to dream?

In these reflections, there is a deeper quest to understand what drives me, what scares me, and what it truly means to step into the unknown.

As I mentioned before, I was not accepted into the AI startup school program. However, I am grateful that I was granted exclusive online access to the seminars.

Read about my learnings in the next post:

Embracing the Unknown 2/2: Takeaways from AI startup school — seminars

The series of nine interviews with the speaker(s) representing a unique blend of famous figures of AI startup scene, young entrepreneurs and VC investors.

Maybe the learning will change your life ? At least, I hope, you will have an enjoyable read if you are interested in entrepreneurship, AI, investing or all of it 🙂 Let’s dive in AI startup world together.

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